Defiant protest promises to fight Campbell Newman’s cuts

Queensland Uncut rally, Brisbane, September 22. Photo: Mark Gillespie/Solidarity

Queenslanders continue to stand up against state Liberal National Party premier Campbell Newman's vicious austerity budget and job cuts, with several hundred joining a rally and march to parliament on September 22. The rally was organised by the Queensland Uncut coalition.

Activists and members of the community sector gave speeches to the rally about the many people affected by the cuts and reiterated the need for a strong, sustained campaign.

Arlene Lewis from the recently defunded Tenant Advocacy Service pointed out that the 14,000 official public sector jobs that the Newman government says it will axe does not include job losses from the large number of community sector organisations that were defunded. She said the true number of people thrown out of work is likely to be much higher.

Lewis said that more than 80,000 families would be affected by the axing of the Tenant Advocacy Service. "It's short-sighted and ultimately financially irresponsible," she said.

Stroke survivor Erin Roberts spoke about the premier's disregard for individuals with a disability. “Fifty two thousand Queenslanders don't count according to our premier," she said. "He refuses to support the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and has now cut the taxi subsidy for wheelchair users. The Newman government is telling us to shut up and fade away.”

Pete and Bo from the Aboriginal Sovereign Tent Embassy in Musgrave Park said: “Aboriginals, we're the mob at the end of the river. When things get cut we cop it the worst.” They pointed out several indicators of inequality, such as the 70,000 Aboriginal kids in foster care in Queensland alone, and the 1 in 5 chance aboriginal students have of graduating high school.

Federal Labor member for Moreton, Graeme Perret, condemned Newman's gag orders, which impose grant contracts on community sector groups that ban them from advocating changes to government policy. He said: “You need to be able to tell the government — Liberal, Labor, National, whatever — what they are doing wrong. Mr 'New Man' reminds me of an old nemesis, and the bad old days of one Joh Bjelke-Petersen.”

Dr Wendell Rosevear agreed, saying: “To gag these organisations is undemocratic and un-Australian.” Rosevear was a member of Queensland's new Ministerial Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS, but resigned after it was made clear to him that the expectation was to "rubber stamp a predetermined agenda".

Health minister "[Lawrence] Springborg's emphasis on ‘outcomes not advocacy’ is simply an excuse to silence us," he said. “I’ve worked a lot with people in abusive relationships — two of the symptoms of a sick, unhealthy relationship are power and denial. A healthy relationship is full of acceptance and honesty. I think we can tell what kind of relationship our government has with the people of this state.”

Bob Carnegie spoke on behalf of a group of striking workers from the Queensland Children's Hospital project. The workers had been on strike for 52 days, protesting pay inequality. “We are not going to build a kid's hospital as industrial slaves in a modern wealthy society,” he said. “When law becomes unjust, defiance becomes our duty.”

Jess Payne from Equal Love tied all of these diverse areas together. “One struggle, one fight,” she proclaimed. “We must stand together against this tyrant. Campbell says cutback, we say fightback.”

The protesters marched through the city centre to parliament house chanting “It's bullshit, come off it. People's lives are not for profit" and "Community services are services are under attack. What do we do? Stand up, fight back.”

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